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Self Love Project | Day Thirteen | Resilient I’m not gonna lie… for YEARS I was ashamed of where I grew up. I fought my entire life to get out of that neighborhood. South Phoenix. Stuck in between 2 rival gang territories. It seems so surreal now when I think about it. That was over 16 years ago. I learned to block it from my memory. I had some wonderful years there that’s for sure. Days when I felt safe walking down the street to the local store to get a hot pickle for fifty cents and a handful of candy for a dollar. Night’s when we would play Hide-and-go- Seek until our parents were calling us to come inside. Running through Willie the Water Bug sprinkler during the hot summer days and laughing with no cares in the world. The only time I watched TV was in the morning right before we headed to school, the rest of the time was spent outside enjoying the hot summer breeze or cold winter nights. Those were the days. When life was easy.But something changed. The kids in the neighborhood got older. Started selling drugs. Formed gangs. I had 3 older brothers who participated. The youngest of the three I’m not so sure that he ever really did any gang activity. But he did always say proudly where he was from.  We started noticing my brothers coming home beat up.  My oldest brother was always the one in the most trouble. Then my middle brother as he got older. There were nights when we couldn’t even sit in the living room for fear that we would get shot. My house got shot up two or three times. I can’t even remember anymore. It’s all such a haze. A lifetime ago. All I remember is my mom hiding us in the hallway and holding our heads down as we were screaming for it to be over. Thankfully nobody was hurt. That time. I’m sure the retaliation went back and forth. I don’t really know. I was too young back then to understand all the violence. I was probably only 10 or so. I’m not really sure.  I never really understood how my brothers could be involved in such things. We came from a loving mother. My dad left us when I was 7 and my brothers were 8,  14 and 17.  Things went downhill from then. But my mom was the most kindhearted, loving mother you will ever know. My brothers acted out in the only way they could, I guess. I never asked them.  One night in 1994 my youngest brother went to a house party two blocks over. He was 15. Him and his best friend were there.  There was a little trouble happening and some guys were asked to leave. They ended up coming back and did a drive by at the party. My brother stood out in the crowd as everyone else was running to hide and was shouting at them. He was a very troubled teen. I believe he was manic depressive, although he was never diagnosed. As the guys fired off rounds of shots my brother stood there, ready to die. And his best friend jumped from behind the brick fence he was hiding behind and threw my brother on the ground and laid on top of him. His best friend got up and went to the backyard. He said he felt weird. And fell into the pool. He died that night. Saving my brothers life.  This is something my brother Jerry was never able to forgive himself for. He lived in torment the remainder of his life. Before he finally decided to take his own life, 6 years later. (His story will be told another day). The neighborhood was in mourning for our dear friend Gabriel. He was actually one of the good guys. Never getting into trouble, just always there to stop it.  Needless to say battles like this went on for years.  I watched my younger brother become an alcoholic at such a young age. I knew this wasn’t a life I wanted for my child. So I needed to find a way out. I knew my mom would never leave. She isn’t one for change. So I had too. I finally was able to move out when I was 22. I was pregnant with my 2nd child. Moved in with her father.  We were together for 8 years before we split up. I left him when I was 25 and got my own place. It was such a happy moment in my life. I was finally on a healthy path to healing myself. Living the kind of life I lived has helped me become the strong woman I am today. I chose to go a different route than most people that grew up in that neighborhood. I didn’t do drugs, nor did I sell them. I watched it tear my family apart. How my brothers would steal from their own mother to find a way to pay for their fix.  It was such an ugly and cruel habit, for everyone involved. I wanted to be so much more. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted my son to have a future. One that didn’t consist of drive by shootings and random, crazy people coming to your house at all hours of the night looking for crack. I worked since I was 15. I was a teenage mom that had to care for her child (that story coming soon as well).  Started off at an amusement park working on the weekends. Ventured out into the world until I finally landed at a job I thought I would retire from. A fortune 500 company. I was starving to make a difference with my life. For my only child (at the time’s) life.  He pushed me more than anybody I knew. I fought my way to the top.  I was 23 years old making 6 figures. My child and I were set. I was finally where I wanted to be. Providing a beautiful life for my son and my daughter. I did not let my past consume me. It only made me stronger. I no longer am ashamed of where I came from. My mom still lives in the same house.  There aren’t gangs (that I know of) that exist there anymore. All those kids have grown up and moved on, went to prison, are on drugs, or never made it past a certain age. She says she is comfortable there. It’s the house my youngest brother Jerry died in. I’m not sure she will ever move out because of that. She is still holding on to whatever memories we have of him there. Whether they be good or bad. I do know that this life has made me resilient. I have learned to pick up the pieces and build a strong foundation for myself. Always pushing my kids to do better, work harder, be the person they dream of being. I was always a dreamer. Since as long as I could remember. It’s because of those big and wild dreams that I live the life I do today. Owning my own business and giving back any time I possibly can. I am living proof that you can choose your destiny. You can choose to go down the easy route or you can choose to work your ass off to the bone to go a happier and healthier route. One you can be proud of. One you can hold your head up high to.  That’s the one that I chose. And because I adore quotes here are some of my favs. Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. – Unknown

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

Throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack. – unknown

And my all time favorite:

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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Eva Franco - To be able to write the way you do. It’s amazing. Your story has touched home like no other so far. You inspire others to never give up. Keep up the amazing work!

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